Porcello Cantina doesn't look like it belongs in a Woodbridge-area strip mall. With a reclaimed barn wood bar, bright red chairs and hanging Edison-style light fixtures, this low-key Italian eatery is bringing downtown dining to the suburbs.
Owners Anthony Lamacchia and Giacomo Pasquini have known each other for 10 years. Lamacchia runs the front of house. "I'm a hometown boy here," he says. Pasquini's in the kitchen. He's also the executive chef at Vertical Restaurant in the Financial District. His menu in Woodbridge is decidedly more laid back.
Many items harken back to Pasquini's hometown. He grew up in the Le Marche region of Italy and notes how certain treats, such as the maritozzi, bring him back to his childhood.
Along with these sweet, stuffed buns, he and his team bake fresh nutella-filled bomboloni, nutella crostata, tiramisu and four types of bread daily.
But, his bread is just a vessel for other ingredients, like his made-in-house porchetta.
Each porchetta sandwich ($8.50) comes piled high with locally-sourced meat. I try one topped with rapini, mushrooms, hot peppers ($0.60 each) and roasted red pepper sauce. It's hefty, delicious and nearly impossible to pick up.
Those looking for something lighter can choose from a few meal-sized salads ($9 to $10) as well as Roman-style pizza ($3.50). My sauceless slice is flavourful thanks to a sprinkling of pancetta, potatoes and rosemary.
Since cantina means wine cellar, this Woodbridge spot offers up both red and white wine on tap ($5.95 per glass) as well as by the bottle. Non-drinkers (and the a.m. crowd) can always pick up a coffee or an espresso-based beverage (all under $4).
Porcello Cantina opens for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. daily. It doesn't close until 9 p.m. on Saturday nights, so if you're near Wonderland or Vaughan Mills, you have a great excuse to stop by for a casual drink and a shareable salumi board ($16). When I visit, Lamacchia serves me one topped with a variety of olives, cheeses and meat, including prosciutto and mortadella.
For the lunchtime crowd, there's a hot table. And in addition to take-out, Lamacchia and Pasquini offer catering.
They also sell handmade gnocchi by the kilogram along with a small selection of imported groceries.
Woodbridge might be filled with Italian restaurants, and while Lamacchia and Pasquini are committed to serving up classic fare, they're also helping change up the area's dining scene.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.